Thursday, April 02, 2015

Yours, Mine and Our Children: Students on the Autism Spectrum (ASD)

The Autism Society provides a free resource guide for teachers called Building Our Future: Educating Students on the Spectrum that offers a great overview of the needs of students at all ages who are on the Autism spectrum. Autism is the third most common developmental disability (following intellectual disabilities and cerebral palsy). It is estimated that 1.5 million people in the United States today have autism.

What does this mean to those of us who prepare future teachers?

Students with Autism are served most often in a general education classroom setting. Therefore, every new teacher we prepare will be working with students with autism during their student teaching and later as a beginning teacher. In what ways are we preparing them for this eventuality? One of the best things we can do is point students in the right direction and offer them resources that will help them hit the ground running when they begin to teach. This resource guide provided by The Autism Society is a great place to start.

Here are just a few highlights from this important resource:
  • What Autism is and is NOT
  • According to the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), how should students with Autism be served in schools
  • Key Elements to create an appropriate educational environment for students with ASD
  • 20 Suggestions to help you make learning easier for students with autism
  • Addressing behavior issues
  • Making adaptations to make learning easier for students with ASD
  • Resources for more information

Many of the suggestions to work with students with ASD are good practice for every teacher. For example, the following suggestions will create a positive learning environment for every child and should be promoted throughout teacher preparation:
  • Extend a welcoming environment
  • Develop predictable routines
  • Use visuals
  • Build on areas of strengths and interests
  • Use creative strategies
  • Empower the student to be an active participant

Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome have gone “mainstream” at this point. Yes, students with ASD are in our classrooms, but ASD doesn't disappear when a student graduates from high school. We have a number of students on the spectrum in the college environment as well. The more we know, the better able we will be to meet the needs of all students.

For more information about Autism, visit The Autism Society for valuable information, free resources and networking.